Climbing gyms are now opening throughout the country and Victorian gyms are set to open on June 22nd. Soon we will again be back in our favorite facilities working out the beta on perplexing problems and feeling a satisfactory forearm pump after a hard session. But climbing indoors will be different for the foreseeable future – persistent risk of covid-19 spread is still with us and everyone and every business needs to remain vigilant to prevent us from heading back into the type of shutdowns we have already experienced.

SCA at the national level and SCV at the state level have been playing an integral part in getting gyms ready for re-opening and facilitating discussions nation-wide regarding reopening guidelines and best practice measures that gyms should consider implementing. This has included consultation with the Australian Institute of Sport regarding sport specific guidelines published in the Framework for Rebooting Sport and participation in International Federation of Sport Climbing Medical Commission calls to understand emerging best practice for reopening climbing facilities.

Two calls with facility managers from around the country were hosted on May 8th and June 5th and in between these calls a template covid safe plan was drafted for facilities to review and adjust and implement as their own policies and plans. By having facilities base their covid safe plans off the same template this creates some consistency between experiences that climbers will have between gyms and instill confidence in public health officials that our industry has considered transmission risk and taken collective action to address these risks as much as possible. Below are some links to relevant resources:

Sport Climbing Australia – Covid19 – Climb Again  : a compilation of resources that have been created or found by SCA. This includes recordings of the two nation-wide facility managers call and the template Covid-Safe Plan for facilities to review and implement.

Department of Health and Human Services – Covid Restrictions related to Sport & Exercise  : given that public health is a state jurisdiction there are differences in the specifics of covid restrictions. This page is updated regularly with current and forthcoming changes to restrictions related to Sport & Exercise.

Sport & Recreation Victoria – News, including Covid related announcements  : while the DHHS link above lists in detail the restrictions, Sport & Recreation Victoria frequently post announcements related to changing restrictions as well as other resources to support the Sport & Recreation industry through this global pandemic.

Climbing facility managers have been very responsive and eager to understand what best practice is in terms of reducing covid-19 transmission risk in their facilities. This has been followed by facility specific plans and then the work implementing these plans. There are a couple measures worth highlighting, specifically these measures are listed in the Australia Institute of Sport Rebooting Sport Framework under level B restrictions for climbing:

Capacity and contact management: Likely the biggest change to normal climbing gyms visits will be the need to understand the capacity of the gym. Most gyms are managing this by implementing a booking system with a time limit on your climbing sessions. Some gyms may allow drop in during non-peak times but if you don’t book you might be turned away if the facility is at capacity. Additionally, there will be controls about how you can move and gather in climbing facilities to avoid congregation of people in the same area. Again gyms are taking a similar approach and implementing zones with clear signage about the limits about how many people can be in one zone at a given time. Emerging evidence about covid-19 transmission dynamics suggests that the close person to person contact is the primary driver of transmission so these efforts are likely to have the biggest impact on reducing transmission risk in our climbing gyms so it’s very important that when we visit climbing gyms we follow these guidelines and are vigilant to maintain 1.5 metre distance between one another.

Hand sanitisation between climbs: While presenting lower risk that person to person contact, surface transmission cannot be ruled out as a potential vector for virus transmission. That’s why sanitising your hands between moving from climb to climb will be important. Facilities will be facilitating this by placing hand sanitisation stations in various locations around climbing areas and an increased use of liquid chalk that has alcohol content of more than 70% will help facilitate this too.

Use of liquid chalk only: The risk of loose chalk, which can remain in the air for a fair amount of time, being a potential surface that the virus can remain active on is currently unknown. While its likely low risk, being cautious in the early stages of reopening days is an appropriate approach. Additionally using liquid chalk, with its alcohol content will help following the need to sanitise hands between climbs.

Daily cleaning of flooring including bouldering mats: Regularly cleaning high traffic surfaces especially surface where droplets from a potential infectious person may settle will help to reduce virus particles from tracking around a facility. Gyms are implementing strict regular cleaning procedures that will help to further reduce the risk of covid-19 transmission.

SCV encourages all climbers to become familiar with the covid safe policies and procedures the climbing gyms you are visiting are implementing. Please help your gyms stay covid safe during our stages of reopening and hopefully we can continue to climb through the covid-19 pandemic.